Sunday, August 7, 2022

Richard Wolff: Global Capitalism and the Economics of a Culture War

Richard Mellor

Not bad stuff from Richard Wolff. The US mass media is so devoid of any serious discussions about capitalism, socialism or any system when one thinks about it, that this polarization he describes is inevitable. In writing about my experiences in the US and the labor movement over the years I made the point that given the limited difference between the Republican and Democratic parties when it comes to economics and workers' living standards cultural issues take precedence.

When  you're going to be poor, or your material conditions deteriorate no matter which party is in power, those who feel the need to vote (and millions have abandoned both parties and the electoral process) you vote on social issues, abortion for or against. Guns or prayer in schools etc. It's a good point he makes about clinging to so-called culture when the chance of economic advancement seems non existent.

Despite this though, it is much harder for the US ruling class to tell white workers to "stick with us boys" that they are protected by their white skin privilege, that they are fortunate to belong to the "white race" an invention that has served the US ruling class very well for centuries. Imagine, an Irish person being the same race as an English one. The Irish who the British bourgeois referred to as the "Savage Race" the "White Chimpanzees" and so on. 

There have been some huge movements in the first two decades of the 21st century that have been multi-ethnic. Millions of US workers are hurting which opens up possibilities for organizing and building workers' organizations and workers' power. The ruling class will always try to offset this tendency to overcome these divisions when workers are forced to fight back; they will always use racism, xenophobia and at all times women, in order to pit one group of workers against another. The US ruling class is powerful, but numerically weak and always threatened by workers and the fear we will unite against them.

The mood is changing and Wolff is right to point to the importance of the developments among the historically unorganized workers in low waged industries; from these struggles new leaders are emerging and this development among the unorganized working class will have huge repercussions within organized labor at some point and splits at the top will be a result. All organizations are affected, are put to the test by huge social events, some adapt and change, some enter the history books.

The present leadership atop organized labor are no exception, they appear entrenched, but in the wake of a rising mass movement, driven by the unraveling of capitalism, many will fall like rotten apples on a tree in the face of a gale.

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